Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo



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Mintz, Levin (97)


Autistic children often have a time-limited window from ages 2 to 7 when they can make significant developmental progress, if given effective therapies. It is not surprising then, that the mother of an autistic child in Boston fought tirelessly to ensure that her six-year-old received the appropriate special education services.

The Am Law Pro Bono 100Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo attorney Garrett Gillespie became the girl's advocate in front of the Massachusetts Bureau of Special Education Appeals. The girl's mother had pleaded with the school to increase the services available to her daughter, but the school district refused to provide them.

"She was getting roughly one quarter of the hours [of therapy] we thought were appropriate," says Gillespie, a healthcare/litigation associate in Mintz Levin's Boston office. The girl's individualized education plan (IEP) was not sufficient for her needs, he says. Gillespie worked with an autism specialist and two physicians from the Division of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics at the Boston Medical Center to obtain medical proof that the girl needed more one-on-one therapy.

Gillespie negotiated with the school district during informal meetings, but when they failed to reach a solution, he requested a hearing with the bureau. Gillespie says that the outcome of the case is confidential, but a resolution was reached the day before the hearing.

The case was part of the firm's broader affiliation with the Medical-Legal Partnership | Boston (MLP). A pediatrician at the Boston Medical Center started MLP in 1993 because he wanted legal professionals to fight on behalf of children's health issues. Mintz Levin first had an informal relationship with MLP, then officially joined MLP's cause in 2001, says associate Sarah Herlihy.

During the past eight years, Mintz Levin has taken on more than 50 MLP cases. In addition to fighting for children's special education needs, Mintz Levin has represented children and families in asylum cases, Social Security and disability disputes, and housing issues, which mainly concern asthmatic children's exposure to rodents and mold. The program has grown into one of the firm's largest pro bono initiatives.

"It's so difficult for parents to do this on their own," Gillespie says. "Our firm can prepare vigorously for trial and put parents in the best possible position to win."

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